A Local Milk Economy

Dairy has a rich, complicated history in our country.

The overall picture is pretty bleak: from 1982 to 2007, New York lost almost 65 percent of its dairy farms (see this news article).  All over this county, there are old dairies gone under, sitting empty, falling apart without the life of cows to sustain it.  The reason for the decline in dairies is complex and can be traced to the commodity price of milk, import of milk products, and the role of large scale processors.

There is a pocket of hope though. The interest in “niche” milk markets could SAVE THE SMALL DAIRY.  Because of the high costs of raising animals and the up-front capital needed, dairy farmers have to receive a premium for the product to survive as a business.  Enter : RAW milk from happy healthy herds.  With the public interest of where one’s food comes from, some small dairies are tapping into this market by demonstrating how their product differs from shelf-bought milk.  Around here, raw milk sells for $7 for the half gallon.  At the gas station down the road, one full gallon goes for $2 plus change.  There’s a lot to unpack in that, but for now, I’ll just say that’s a big difference in price to the farmer.


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